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Nearly 90 years after Werner Heisenberg pioneered his uncertainty principle, a group of researchers from three countries has provided substantial new insight into this fundamental tenet of quantum physics with the first rigorous formulation supporting the uncertainty principle as Heisenberg envisioned it.

In the Journal of Mathematical Physics, the researchers reports a new way of defining measurement errors that is applicable in the quantum domain and enables a precise characterization of the fundamental limits of the information accessible in quantum experiments. Quantum mechanics requires that we devise approximate joint measurements because the theory itself prohibits simultaneous ideal measurements of position and momentum -- and this is the content of the uncertainty relation proven by the researchers.

"Curiously, since Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, gave an intuitive formulation of this principle, it was only recently that serious attempts were made to make the statement precise enough so that one could check its validity," said Paul Busch, Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of York, who collaborated with Pekka Lahti of the University of Turku in Finland and Reinhard F. Werner of Leibniz Universität in Hannover, Germany on the work.

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